LeBron James' agent, Rich Paul, has informed the Miami Heat that James will exercise his early termination option and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Opting out does not mean that James has decided to leave the Heat, sources said.
James, a four-time NBA MVP, had until June 30 to decide whether to opt out of the final two years of his contract with Miami. He was scheduled to make $20 million next season and had two years and about $42.7 million remaining on his deal.
After Miami's season-ending loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, James told reporters he would take a vacation with his family before considering his contract options.
James did indicate that he welcomed the opportunity to become a free agent and have the same level of flexibility he was afforded in 2010, when he signed with Miami after spending his first seven years in Cleveland.
"Being able to have flexibility as a professional, anyone, that's what we all would like," James said last week. "That's in any sport, for a football player, a baseball player, a basketball player, to have flexibility and be able to control your future or your present. I have a position to be able to do that. ... There's a lot of times that you're not in control of your future as a professional."
In his four seasons in Miami, the Heat have gone to the NBA Finals four times, winning two championships. James could join Shaquille O'Neal as the only players in NBA history to lead their teams in total points scored in the NBA Finals and then play for a different team to start the following season, according to Elias Sports Bureau. O'Neal played for the 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers, who lost to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals, and then was traded to the Heat in the offseason.
If James departs, he would also be leaving a historic opportunity on the table. Only one team in NBA history has appeared in at least five consecutive NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics, who reached 10 straight from 1957 to '66.
The other two Miami stars with early termination options -- Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- have not yet told the Heat or publicly revealed whether they will join James as free agents this summer. Bosh and James both said last week that the three would meet before deciding anything about their respective futures, and it's been widely speculated that they might have to rework their deals to keep the "Big 3" together in Miami.
Each signed six-year deals when they famously teamed up in Miami in 2010, and all of those deals came with options to become free agents either this summer or in the summer of 2015. Together, they've won four Eastern Conference titles and two NBA championships, winning more games than any other team in the league over that span.
"There's a conversation that will be had between the three of us," James said last week. "I think it's only right. I think we've earned that for each other, to have a conversation and see what could possibly happen."
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN Stats & Info was used in this report.
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